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Is it time to ditch national anthems?

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John Beattie | 11:54 UK time, Sunday, 6 May 2012

I can just feel as I get ready to write this that you aren't going to agree with me, but here goes anyway: Isn't it time we got rid of national anthems before internationals?

The last few weeks of rugby have been magnificent.

The English premiership has reached it's climax, the French clubs have been going at it like mad things on obscure satellite channels, and both Glasgow and Edinburgh have done special things in the league and cup respectively.

Ulster, or as should now call them "the Springboks", have played great rugby and they fill one half of a Heineken Cup final - otherwise known as a pint - and take on Leinster who contained 13 Ireland qualified players the last time the sides met.




Now I really enjoyed going to the Edinburgh game and watching the Glasgow game. I liked the fact that the teams turned up and played.

And it was while sitting in the Aviva stadium in Dublin as Ulster prepared to play Edinburgh that I tried to analayse why I was enjoying it so much.

The answer? Partly it's because the games were good. Some of the top club games now are as good, if not better, than internationals. But the main reason: There was no phoney, ritualised, and carefully choreographed war going on before the match.

Oh the Italian anthem is wonderful, as is the French, but analysis of the others is worth while.

The Welsh national anthem, in all its admitted glory, was written just three of my lifetimes ago in the mid 1800's by father and son Evan and James James of Pontypridd.

Our sporting anthem, Flower of Scotland, was written in 1967 by Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries, Ireland's "Four Proud Provinces' was penned as recently as 1995 by Phil Coulter whose earlier successes included Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a string" and "Congratulations" for Cliff Richard, while God Save the Queen lays claim to be the oldest coming from the mid 1700s and written by Thomas Augustine Arne.

Those of you who know me know that I love music, and play in a rock band myself, deafening people all all over Scotland in the process.

But the more international matches I go to, the less inclined I am to watch jingoistic behaviour and sing at the same time, tears rolling down my cheeks, to relatively modern tunes.

Maybe it's because I am always stone cold sober at the time.

I suppose it's all wrapped up in the question: What exactly is international rugby? Is it, for instance, a strange substitute for an annual war at pre-defined locations?

Maybe that's why we wear blue, the others wear their colours, and we start with the rituals.

First of all we beat our drums, play our national music - the bagpipes in our case - and then we sing our anthems as loudly as we can at each other, hoping, no doubt, for some fear-inducing sentiment to travel across the pitch.

It's a replacement for an aerial bombardment of some kind. Or flag waving from a distant hill.

Oh and there have been some terrible foul ups in the past.

The French band in Paris playing the wrong sheet of music by mistake, the PA system not working at age group games, and the obligatory opera singer taking it all to a level, or key, that we can never reach.

Each country has some military input too, though not, admittedly, at a level anywhere near that of your average US sporting occasion.

The rugby players in the Six Nations, then, are the stand-in soldiers. Sent out there to kick lumps out of each other but within certain rules, and all for their country.

And, as they listen to the anthems, lined up in front of us, their right hands cross their chests to clutch their national emblem - sewn into the jersey to cover the heart - and some of them break down and cry in the process or make aggressive faces.

Now, I'm not convinced by all this behaviour. Having been out there a few times I remember the stress, but every player asks himself: "How am I supposed to behave, and what does the crowd expect me to do here?"

So those who feel angry faces are required put on angry faces, and the rest of what you see, aside from outright fear and floods of tears, is a bit of an act.

The beauty of the big games I've been to see recently has been in their lack of pre-match ceremony.

At the Aviva for Ulster's game against Edinburgh there were no dignitaries, many of whom haven't a clue about rugby but feel they need to be seen, sent out to shake hands.

No great big military bands playing their old tunes, and no national anthems.

Instead the players came out, warmed up, went back inside while we were entertained to some dancing on the pitch, came back out and got stuck right into each other.

I liked that. I liked the lack of jingoism, of nationalism, of tribal rivalry.

I liked it being a game. A sporting event. It wasn't a substitute for war. There were no national anthems. The modern world is ever more international, why do we bay our national anthems at each other?

But then again, you probably disagree. Do we really need national anthems at rugby internationals?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, I would agree in principle. The use of anthems at the Olympic Games is, along with the synthetic British jingoism and the professionalism, utterly revolting, and against the whole ethos of the Olympic Movement. As Eric Liddell said after he won his gold medal in 1924, the events are supposed to be a competition amongst individuals, not amongst the countries or states from which they come. So I would support the idea, on one condition: that it applies to all anthems, on every occasion, and I never have to hear 'God Save the Queen' again.

  • Comment number 2.

    Would war dances be ditched tae?

  • Comment number 3.

    I am anti-nationalist at almost every turn, but there is something about the tribalism of sport that really gets my juices going. I've always viewed sport as a metaphor; satisfying our competitive urges without the archaic loss of life and bloodshed(!) Also, music is such an important thing to Humans, it stirs emotion, it unifies the crowd. One thing I would admit, however, is that the anthems aren't the greatest pieces of music ever. 500 Miles by The Proclaimers gets my vote to replace Dour of Scotland! The Welsh could have Delilah and the Irish could go for Massacre by Thin Lizzy!

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree John. There's something special about the second verse of Flower of Scotland being sung just by the combined voice of Scottish fans. The Welsh national anthem being sung by a capacity crowd in Cardiff raises the hairs on the back of the neck, as with the anthems of the other 6 Nations teams. So, for me, we should keep the anthems but review the other per match entertainment (flaming torches etc).

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes, John please ditch the anthems before internationals, so we can get on with the game, and if it can be stopped at the Olympics as well, I might even watch! I've had enough choreographed jingoism. It would also spare the embarrassment of players (and Welsh Secretaries of State - John Redwood) not knowing the words...

  • Comment number 6.

    Well there's anthems and there's anthems, innit?

    I wholeheartedly agree about the jingoism, but then it pervades UK society. And I'm far less queasy on hearing national anthems before sporting events than I am, for example, on seeing military standards inside churches - a very widespread practice in our strange little islands.

    I'd happily see the anthems ditched at the Olympics. But I'd retain them for internationals in team sports, where the country is after all the defining factor which brings the players together as a team. If we're going to scrap the anthems there, wouldn't it be more honest to scrap the matches themselves?

    But let's ditch the mediocre anthems, like Ireland's Call, and the crap ones Like God Save The Queen. Land of Hope and Glory please - and A Soldier's Song, played at an anthemic pace rather than a gallop.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nothing wrong with a bit of banter. It is after all an international played between the different countries. So why not. As I sat next to a Englishman and a few from south Africa it was a sign that we were there for a good laugh.

    How else would you respond to a haka?

  • Comment number 8.

    Rugby is now a professional sport and therefore needs to try and turn a profit as much as possible. This means that the flaming torches, anthems and all the rest of the showy stuff will stay because the people paying £80 for a ticket want a show. On another note I've not had as much fun at anything rugby related as i did on Saturday, dressed up and dancing in the party stand at Scotstoun and all without anthems but plenty of other "Gallus Banter".

  • Comment number 9.

    Each country should nominate a pop song every season or game. Let's have fun rather than fraction. I certainly have enjoyed the Poznan/Man City/Celtic celebrations far more than any anachronistic tune!

  • Comment number 10.

    It's easy to like anthems and ritual when the country is doing ok.For our national team now is not that time.

    John, I suspect that what you enjoyed in the Aviva last weekend was not the lack of anthems but more the fact that a Scottish based team was doing well in a high level competition.
    It might also be that Glasgow fans will enjoy the lack of that stuff too in the play-offs.

    And as an earlier poster said, to listen to The Welsh one in their place, and the French one too in their place are both amazing.It's usually what follows that's less easy for us to like...

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes we should keep the Anthems, What more can spur you national team on than to have a massive following belting out their Anthem which should fill your team with pride . The fans are the extra player in many ways egging there team on to greater things and the anthems help by showing how proud you are of your nation

  • Comment number 12.

    The anthems seems to me are just a part of a wider set of traditions that union, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, is built upon. These traditions have bridged the gap between the amateur & professional eras & is part of the fabric of the game along with the 'league un-friendly' traditional mid-winter start of the 6 Nations, the different Nation's colours, the songs, the haka, the odd little cups, Ireland's cross-border ethos. Not saying change shouldn't happen but they need careful consideration and not a result of gimmicky suggestions - this one belongs in the bin along with promotion & relegation to the six nations.

  • Comment number 13.

    This is only mentioned briefly in your blog, but why are lots of commentators so cynical about the Ulster team. It seems disingenuous to call them the "Springboks" as you do, especially with the implied contrast with Leinster. That particular match you referred to, Ulster had 11 starting players that were Irish qualified. The Saffers are great, but give a bit of respect to the rest (the majority) of the team.

    On the topic of the blog, I don't agree. The anthems bring a lot of atmosphere to the start of a match, it signifies the importance of what is about to come. On the Irish one specifically and referring to #6 Ireland's Call is quite progressive politically, although musically pretty average. The Soldier's song would only serve to alienate if it was the sole anthem as approximately a quarter of the supporters would feel insulted.

  • Comment number 14.

    Freenonbrit

    My my we are tetchy! I can't see how "utterly revolting" can be applied to a National anthem for goodness' sake. What is utterly revolting is the term "Team GB" as opposed to "Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Of course people are representing their countries in all international sport when applicable-where does all their funding come from- Mum and Dad?

  • Comment number 15.

    Disagree with this to be honest John, if a game is scheduled to kick off at 3pm and you don't want to watch the anthems then arrive at 3pm, if you do then arrive for 2:45, pretty simple really

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi John

    I think this would be bad for Scotland as the only thing worth turning up for at Murrayfield at the moment is the pre-match entertainment. The whole idea is ridiculous but predictable coming from someone who is from a nation where Rugby is behind football and tossing the caber. Having been to the Arms Park and the Millenium Stadium on countless occasions to hear the roar of the Welsh National Anthem and also having been to the Stade France to hear the French belting their anthem out.....it just wouldn't be the same without it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Normally enjoy your blogs john but switched off when u had a cheap shot at Ulster Springboks!
    Can you tell me the nationality of the 'Scottish rugby' coach?
    The Glasgow coach?
    The Edinburgh coach?

  • Comment number 18.

    We had a great time over at the Aviva even if the result was wrong John. Why on earth would you want to ban 40,000 Ulstermen/women singing Stand Up For the Ulstermen. Our small contingent turned it on it head and were singing Sit Down For The Ulstermen, hopelessly drowned out of course. Where we were the game was viewed in great cameraderie as it should be. However with the national teams it is a chance to demonstrate our independance whichever part of the British Isles you come from.
    Oh and btw Gibbs is my Dad the Edinburgh 48-47 win over Racing Metro in the Heineken Cup was worth the season ticket at Murrayfield in itself, pity the rest of the British Isles didn't see it thanks to Sky's policy of " if it doesn't involve an English team we are not interested".

  • Comment number 19.

    Totally agree. And cut out all the juvenile pyrotechnics and the handshaking with some so-called dignitary. It would make more sense to have a very brief introduction of the players, though, just number and name and a wave to the crowd, then get on with the game. It won't be long before one country can think of a reason for having three anthems, or perhaps home and away anthems.

  • Comment number 20.

    Leave it off John , i know "flower of Scotland" is a dirge , not as bad as GS Brenda but it was not meant to be an anthem rather a song at a folk club. However at Cardiff , Rome and Paris their anthems mean something , it's one of the great preliminaries that builds up the tension prior to kick off -great! Could do away with the royal sycophancy ,I know it makes the chairman happy (He's from the West ,enough said) but leave it to Ibrox

  • Comment number 21.

    Honestly I really can't see why folk are bothered at all, it doesn't push kick off back any so why do folk really not like it!?

  • Comment number 22.

    John, in a word, NO!

    I think you've gone utterly mental here. I know you've got a bit of a bee in your bonnet because you don't like Flower of Scotland (how many times have you had a pop at it now?), but for me when the pipes drop out for the second verse leaving 65,000 acapella Scots singing away makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

    Music and sport go hand in hand, and some of the most iconic moments of World Cups past have come during the anthems.
    For me, the Portuguese geeing themselves up for facing the All Blacks in their first ever Rugby World Cup was a minute of absolute magic. I believe the players were stone cold sober as you are before the games, and would you seriously deprive them of this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2egR4mll9gI

    Similarly, seeing one of rugby's great hard men in Mario Ledesma with tears rolling down his face in his last match in the 2011 World Cup was another moment of anthem magic.
    http://rugbyworldcup-argentina2023.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/one-final-emotional-anthem-for-mario.html

    The anthems are part of the theatre of international rugby for me, and often give an indicator as to how "up for it" a team are.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CoPXFzJtq0&feature=related
    Rome in 2011 being an example.

    If you deny me my annual quota of big men bawling like jessies, badge clutching, and out of tune bellowing, then I'm going to have to park up outside your house and play Flower of Scotland out of the car stereo full welly till you relent!

    I'm putting it down to end of season madness, but you've got until the middle of August before there are any meaningful internationals, so away and get your guitar and compose us something more stirring for Murrayfield, given your obvious dislike of the current ditty!

    If South Africa vs Argentina doesn't stir your anthemic juices, then can I suggest you offer to donate your heart as well as your brain to medical research?
    There's clearly a fair bit of stone in there, and it seems to be as cold as Murrayfield in February!

    Did you really not have a wee lump in your throat when J. Beattie Jnr lined up to sing the anthem at Murrayfield for the first time?

  • Comment number 23.

    What about teams like National teams like England with depending on starting line up can have up to 4-5 players that are not originally from England. Yes and before you start I am aware Scotland are just as bad. Same goes with the All Blacks do all the Samoans and Fijians they have to sing another countries anthem ??????

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm English and therefore have to endure the pretence that the British national anthem ('God Save the Queen') is the English national anthem. My dislike of 'God Save the Queen' being used as the English national anthem is further exacerbated by the fact that I am also an atheist and a republican!

    I'd be quite happy for us English to decide on a national anthem (or even at least a sporting anthem) and to sing it before international games. It's part of the colour of the event. I always feel a thrill whenever I hear the French singing 'La Marsellaise' in Paris in particular.

  • Comment number 25.

    I hate national anthems. And especially so with the introduction of famous guest singers. It's sad that a country has to define itself by an act of war or hatred of another or declares itself more powerful than others because a 'god' is on their side. The problem is too many also believe in such nonsense. Get rid of the military bands and all the endless handshaking as well.

    Anthems are so often a representation of the ruling elite - their aspirations and outlook. Sport should have more to do with commonality, so why spoil it by singing about some silly old 'royalists' fantasy about ruling the world?

  • Comment number 26.

    Can't believe you really mean this blog John, it is the way of bonding the crowd and the team, would Scotland ever have won the Grand Slam without it

  • Comment number 27.

    John
    "How?" & "Who?" should define what is a correct or incorrect anthem. And here I am about to become a public hypocrite.
    I think you should desist from your trademark digs at teams you see as packed by foreigners as I think it devalues much of your sage commentary.
    However, I will now fall into the same trap by suggesting that English teams should not be allowed to use "God Save the Queen" as an English anthem; GB & NI Teams, yes, UK Teams, yes, but not England.
    Problem is, there appears to be no rule as to what "anthem" you can use in these circumstances. Until there is a body which makes a universal ruling & can enforce that ruling, nae anthems! Either that or we all sing one anthem only - The World in Union - & if I have the wrong one, please forgive as jetlag from 30 hour flight home from visiting family in Oz has kicked in.

  • Comment number 28.

    John, i have had this debate many times. Can we just clear one thing up. Scotlands national anthem is "God Save the Queen". As is Wales'. So, should the title of your post be (abolish all folk songs and dittys and just keep the national anthems". Might be a bit of confusion at the start but clearly our northan brothers would embrace their true national anthem. #chortle,chortle#

  • Comment number 29.

    Oh dear. You really have unleashed some unpleasant comments from some folk with this blog.

  • Comment number 30.

    *29

    I agree. Isn't it sad but always the case that people who don't believe in anything genuinely think that the rest of us are interested? Perhaps all those who don't like anthems should pack up and move to a country that is anthem-less.

    Ona slightly different note, I was dissapointed to hear the clapping at The Millenium Stadium when a minute's SILENCE was asked for Merv the Swerve. I hope that awful soccer habit won't catch on.

  • Comment number 31.

    Another tired little cheapshot at Ulster?! How sad, move on. There were 11 Irish men on that pitch as well as our foreign contingent.

    I usually like these blogs but didn't read anything after that!

  • Comment number 32.

    Yes. Get rid of anthems. Then get rid of team colours. Make all games the reds versus the blues. Then make teams play anonymously. Then insist on quotas for all genders, sexes, disability levels, ages in every team. Then you wouldn't need "commentators" generating nonsense to earn money.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think that the national anthems before the game all add to the atmosphere and the fun. The 6N would be lessened as an occasion if they were done away with!

    As for the songs themselves...where to begin??? England using God Save the Queen/King has always been an anachronism and a bit of nose-thumbing at other members of the United Kingdom. I wish it would change...but how do you replace it? "Jerusalem" is fantastic but is mixed up with a quaint Victorian notion that Christ visited England hence making the country uniquely blessed etc etc. No serious scholar believes this! It is also a socialist anthem that would raise the blood-pressure of some of the blazeratti at the RFU. "Land of Hope & Glory" is fine, but has a slightly pompous tone that grates with modern sensibilities and is also the signature theme of the Conservative Party. It is however already used as England's "anthem" at the Commonwealth Games.

    Left to come up with a suitable uplifting anthem for England in 2011 one suspects that we would end up with some gutless dirge about thatched cottages, diversity and human rights composed by a committee. Probably best to stick with GSTQ even if it is a terrible tune.

    Flower of Scotland is a great anthem on match day, but it is pointedly aggressive, with that unique juxtaposition of noisy self-affirmation and self-pity. Were anyone else to come up with an anthem of that nature it would be labelled as hostile and racist. Clearly composed by someone trying to get something off his chest.

    Ireland, by nature of having two countries with past tensions involved has a delicate path to tread. I think that they're done a good job in creating a joint "anthem" that is positive and uplifting, saying all the right things about the country and the team.

    The Welsh anthem always sounds fantastic and is a highlight of the 6N. I just don't have any idea what it means.

    The Marseillese always sounds great and I'm sure that the French find it very uplifting despite its message of sanguinary wealth redistribution and forceable "reducation" of reactionary foreigners. To me though it has always sounded a bit like someone whistling in the dark to keep their courage up! It must come from the secret knowledge that France is the second most defeated nation on Earth!(after Bulgaria if you're interested)

    The Italians have the best national anthem in the 6N, including a shameless key-change between verses. It is also the longest and seems to go one long after you feel it should have finished.

    Should they be done away with? Of course not! A national anthem is a great thing to be enjoyed and cherished. A sudden moment of unity amongst people. As for the grimacing and tears...some players clearly do find it very affecting and you can understand that. As for the crowd...it's meant to be positive, uplifting and fun! The kind of people who read too much into it and see international rugby as directly connected to their own sense of virility and self-worth. As ever, they're missing the point!

  • Comment number 34.

    30. A minutes silence is totally over used at most sports arenas. It has become a completely meaningless gesture.

    As for national anthems I would happy be rid of them and the associated hoopla. It really is tiresome to go to Twickenham and be confronted with seemingly endless burst of Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem not to mention that dreadful nonsense (adopted from football) when England score a try.

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry John can't agree with you on the anthems they're a great build up to the game and can't help but think they help gee up the crowd and the players alike. Taking that away just takes part of the drama and excitement that is test match rugby.

    However, I'm with you on the 'opera' singers they trundle out for the anthems. Half the time I wonder if they've ever heard the anthem of the nation they're singing before they try to do it as their key is off the scale in contrast to the crowd and also the pacing is more often than not terrible. The crowd has usually finished by the time they get to the second verse! Don't see the point in them, if 60,000+ can't make themselves heard can't see how someone warbling down a microphone will help!

    As for the rest of the hooplah that comes on match day, I can take it or leave it, I'm just not that fussed for it. Think that it's more for the TV than those in the stadium generally. Personally preferred the understated (pre-firework phil) approach of the past instead of the need to have a opening ceremony before every game.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think the anthems and pre-match formalities should be dropped, too, but for different reasons; these are elite sportsmen, who go through sensible warm-ups and then have to go and stand there for 15 minutes shaking hands, singing and so on. I think that much of the physiological benefit of the warm-up is thus lost, and there's a significantly increased risk of injury as a result; that simply shouldn't be allowed.

  • Comment number 38.

    First, a SERIOUS complaint.

    John, as you are a public commentator and writer I cannot refrain from ticking you off on this (you should know better):

    'The English premiership has reached it's climax...'

    OK I'm a grammar pedant but REALLY, it's????? It's (i.e. it is) like an epidemic in this country!

    If blogs are to be written on the BBC website for public consumption, then it is not unreasonable to expect minimum writing/grammar/spelling standards. You can write what you like but at least write it properly!!

    Posters can write what they like as they're not paid (not with my money anyway), though perhaps some could make a little more effort.

    As to the matter of national anthems, I fully concur with AlisdairMcDonald @22's comment. There are some dirges around but an international is an international. As for comparing the lack of razzmatazz before the Ulster - Edinburgh game with that at an international, you aren't comparing like with like. That was a club game not an international.

    Can you imagine say, England - France with no anthems???? No La Marseillaise???? (I could live without GStQ).

    Inconceivable!

  • Comment number 39.

    "3 "Same goes with the All Blacks do all the Samoans and Fijians they have to sing another countries anthem ??????"

    It's easy. Most of them are New Zealanders. They sing their countries national anthem.

  • Comment number 40.

    For me the pre match hoopla is just good sense, it gives people that like that sort of thing a reason to arrive early and stops there being a huge crowd trying to get through the gate at bang on kick off time, it stops that bottleneck to a degree

  • Comment number 41.

    Sorry that should be "They sing their country's national anthem" Funny that this silly argument always get dragged up whenever any matter of "nationality" gets raised on nortehrern rugby blog. I would have thought that people might have got the message by now but ho hum.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am consistently disappointed by the match atmosphere at Murrayfield at internationals. Our inability to make sufficient rousing noise to get the team going is, frankly, embarassing. Its the same when Glasgow play Edinburgh at Murrayfeld - the Glasgow fans are always much more behind their team with the cheering. Are East Coast fans more reserved? I think so. All this means that we need as much dewey-eyed, fired up nationalism as we can muster - what can achieve that more than a wee sing song at the start!

  • Comment number 43.

    35 Midas Child

    Completely with you on the whole "razzamatazz" thing.

    The introduction of an opera singer to remind people of how their national anthem goes is an absurd import from American football...where irony and self-awareness are foreign concepts. The sound of a big crowd singing is a hair-lifting experience in its own right. A single, hugely amplified voice trilling away in the foreground wrecks the whole experience...keeps it controlled, corporate and away from the people if you like.

    Fireworks in daylight are possibly the purest definition of a waste of money known to man. They just fill the stadium with acrid smoke. Similarly, the jets of flame give that Apocalypse Now smell but don't add anything other than a runny nose. If you're a real fan, who has got hold of an international ticket, who has waited eagerly for weeks, why would you need to be artificially "geed-up" by some marketing cretin with a toy flame-thrower before the game?

    It's getting worse each year...possibly as the "product" becomes more omnipresent and fans more jaded. At the dawn of the professional era I saw a match at Twickenham when England ran onto the pitch to the "Theme from the Professionals". I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. By the time we got to last years RWC we had the flame-throwers plus the teams "spiritually" drawn onto the pitch by a Maori warrior in full regalia performing an ancient ceremony that had clearly been worked out in the office the previous week.

    I'm getting old but what's wrong with the teams running out to the cheers and applause of the crowd? A couple of quick anthems to set the scene, followed by the match? If you need more than than that, perhaps you should consider giving your ticket to a fan!

  • Comment number 44.

    "It's getting worse each year...possibly as the "product" becomes more omnipresent and fans more jaded."

    Hard to argue with this. It's as though every moment not taken up with the actual playing of the game must be crowded with noise.

  • Comment number 45.

    It was us welsh that started the singing of the national anthem before the match. Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 46.

    44

    I went to one of the finals days at Twickenham last Saturday, to see Wells RFC from Somerset triumph in the RFU Senior Vase. A great achievement for a tiny club from England's smallest city (pop. 12,000)

    It was a great day out but they actually played three different games for three different competitions on the same billing. It was all huge fun but you got the sense of the dead-hand of RFU corporatism at all times, right through from the formula team photos, the carefully choreographed three minutes to climb the steps to get the trophy followed by the now sacred ritual of playing Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" over the P.A.

    When you see the formula played out three times you start to feel a bit used!

  • Comment number 47.

    Just an observation regarding GSTQ; firstly, I'm with #24, atheist and republican, so not a fan of this horrendous dirge.

    Secondly, there seem to be a few comments asking why the English have taken it for their own, and exclude the other home nations from using it; I'm not sure this is strictly true, I would suggest that most English people would rather have a unique anthem for England purposes, and keep the other one for UK needs.

    I am sure if you held a poll, then the Scots, Irish and Welsh would not want to change from their existing anthem,and the English would happily change.

    That all being said, I like the idea of a rousing tune to stir the emotions a little, inject a bit of fire into the belly; after all sport is combative by its nature, we should all play to win, otherwise there is little point in playing.

  • Comment number 48.

    44

    ...oh yes and another thing...I really can't understand why we now need to have "jaunty" music to celebrate a try or, even worse, to keep me amused when a player is down injured. The latter cropped up in the RWC last year. Am I alone in thinking that the first concern should be whether the player is alright, not whether people with 30 second attention spans in the crowd are getting a bit bored.

    It seems just so incredibly insenistive and disrespectful!

  • Comment number 49.

    Well said Anglophone. No need for fireworks, flames etc.
    They used to play Scotland the Brave when the Scotland team took to the field. Then I can only surmise that someone in PR decided that Highland Cathedral would work better. Sorry, but it doesn't - Highland Cathedral, as great a tune as it is when played with a brass band, is more of a dirge than Flower of Scotland in my opinion so should be ditched and Scotland the Brave put back as the tune for the teams to come out to at Murrayfield.
    Teams line up, quick anthem, game on.

  • Comment number 50.

    "why we now need to have "jaunty" music to celebrate a try "

    I almost will not go to Twickenham now for the abolute irritation of the "na na na na" when England score. It's even more irritating that it has been adopetd from football.

    As a non-Engalnd supporter it seems just pathetic; that said NZ trawling out NZ "hits" from the 80s at every opportunity drives me equally mad.

  • Comment number 51.

    Anthems don't care about!!!! But cheap shot at Ulster!!! Specially when the coach at Edinburgh so has only signed foreigners...... Next season at Edinburgh will be spot the Scots man. And SRU have moved Sean to "Find a foreigner to play for Scotland" coaching job in the SRU. Glasshouse and stones comes to mind. Townsend, Glasgow Head coach, next season, God help us all!!!!!!! Coco could do a better job.....

  • Comment number 52.

    Kiaora TP

    I have to say I love the 80s hits ( now that my wife has chucked all my CDs in a skip ). It does make me wonder where all the hits went after 1989.

    Good to see you fighting the good fight, still on the Great Po-ching. I was going to wade in but you've played it with the usual straight bat.

    I like the anthems, they should stay. The only thing I'd change would be to have Amhran na bhFiann for Ireland instead of that Titanic number.

    And Anglophone, I reckon Mr Barebum may have been acting on a bet with his iwi. $50 and and all the kina you can scarf if you can convince the NZRFU to allow you to wear a thong and blow a trumpet before every game. Besides, it had the pleasing effect of putting the Pomgolians watching at home off their kippers and/or muesli.

  • Comment number 53.

    Kiaora Panama

    Yes some of the 1980s songs are fine but not infinitum at the rugby.

    Anthems well I'm indifferent; great AB supporter but not a great nationalist.

    Re Ireland I'd prefer "The Star of the County Down"; great sing along

    Alex Salmond would no doubt prefer "Freedom Come All Ye" and he would have a point given the dirge that is Flower of Scotland.

    Tak the road an seek ither loanins
    Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

  • Comment number 54.

    This really is a ridiculous post John.

    The national anthems and all that entails are part of what makes international rugby. It's what separates it from the heineken cup etc.

    I know it's all cliche and everything but it's about the pride of pulling on your jersey and representing your country. I would find it slightly disheartening if we had to remove the national anthems because of some kind of political correctness.

    The same gos for the Haka. Let the people who sing and perform enoy it. Most players do and judging by the corwd in say the Millenium Stadium during a game...so do the supporters.

    You've had your moment in the sunshine in international rugby...let everyone else enjoy their time and all that should come with it. I bet you weren't saying get rid of anthems back when you were playing for Scotland after all!!

    By the way Dumptackle has a new rugby blog with loads of articles submitted daily. It's a great side so have a look:

    http://www.dumptackle.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 55.

    50 FallingTP

    Na na na na...is actually the opening bars of the cover version of "Tom Hark" put out by one-hit wonders The Pirhanas c. 1981. It's actually meant to be joyous rather then crowing and insulting as some seem to feel. All very unnecessary just the same.

    Thanks for letting me know that the music played at Eden Park was a selection NZ hits from the 80s. That would explain why I'd never heard any of them before ;-)

  • Comment number 56.

    Ahhh so both NZ and RFU are harking back to the 1980s.

    I must say I find the na na na thing most annoying. Checking wiki I note:

    "It also became a popular chant amongst British football fans"

    With football fans to Twickenham has come less knowledgeable and more intolerant rugby crowds. Any correlation between this and playing this stupid ditty?

    "Sick months in a leaky boat" is about as universal as it gets which I would suggest given the conditions in Wellignton is often quiet appropriate.

  • Comment number 57.

    Six Months in a Leaky Boat came out during the Falklands Campaign and got promptly banned over here in the UK, didn't it?

    They experimented with Soft Cell's "Sex Dwarf" at Eden Park for a while but the sound travelled all the way to Western Springs and upset the chimpanzees ( who were already upset with the noise from the speedway).

  • Comment number 58.

    Panama

    Just seen Beattie's post from last month where he claimed

    "New Zealanders really want paying for the players they are losing just now then they should pay billions to the islands from which they have taken players for thirty years"

    Boy I thought he had a bit more to him but he's as lazy journalistically as the rest of them. It's a pity these guys don't do a bit of research before writing this drivel. Not only is this statement absurd but it reflects a complete and utter ignorance of the dynamics of NZ society. The guy should give up.

  • Comment number 59.

    God almighty!

    Seriously, a few of the older generation over seem convinced that New Zealand is just off the Scilly Isles and was populated in the 1950s by people from Dorset.
    They have Polynesians??? When did that happen??

    I reckon we may live longer if we just let the ignorance wash over us but then again bu99er it - let's keep fighting the good fight.

    Good news of the week - mini Scholsey got Player's Player of the Year for his rugby team. The money spent on the sherbert dabs for his team mates was well spent. Poor little fella got a boot right on the nads in his last tournament - I reminded him of the Wounds of Buck and he sprang back into action. He still needs more protection from his forward pack so I may have to introduce him to the Carlaw Clotheshanger and (in)judicious use of his enormous head.

  • Comment number 60.

    Silly, blog
    The first time a national anthem was sung before an international rugby game was 16 December 1905 at Cardiff Arms Park by the Welsh team in response to the New Zealand team's performance of the Haka ....and the 40,000 strong crowd (plus reputedly double that number outside the ground) joined in, so that the whole place reverberated. No wonder the idea caught on, especially as Wales won! It emphasised the sense of occasion.
    Some anthems are rousing, some are confrontational, some are fun and some are just...dull and probably don't lend a sense of occasion to anything.
    The Welsh national anthem praises the beauty of the country and the love the singer has for its rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and valleys, its poets and musicians, the endurance of its language and its ancient defenders. The only faintly hostile reference comes at the end where it says that even though foes have trampled or ravaged the land (probably a reference to the industrialisation of the valleys) they have not silenced the language or the music.

 

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